Evaluation of English Reading Pace of Bilingual and Multilingual Non-Native Learners

Introduction

            Bilingualism or multilingualism is one of the aspects of the educational realities for very many people in various parts of the world. Because of ethnic background or immigration, many people are brought up in the first few years of their life learning to speak or read one language and then attend school in another language, which is the majority language of the province or country. Some countries such as Canada have two official languages, which are English and French. According to Ahmed, Cane, & Hanzala (2011), multilingualism is the act of using various languages, either by a community of speakers or an individual speaker. Presently the number of multilingual speakers and readers outnumber monolingual speakers in the entire population of the world. According to Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada (2001), bilingualism refers to the ability to speak or read two languages. Bilingualism might be acquired early in children in areas where most adults speak two languages. Individuals might also become bilingual by learning two languages in two different social settings (Canagarajah, 2007). The two states, multilingualism and bilingualism, have an impact in the English reading pace. This study will assume that the English is one of the languages read and spoken by both multilingual and bilinguals.

Aims and Objectives

            This study provides an evaluation of English reading pace of multilingual and bilingual non-native learners. The study uses the following research hypotheses in order to achieve its objectives:

H1: Multilingual non-natives have a faster pace of reading English than the bilingual non-natives;

H2: More bilinguals than multilinguals feel that reading English is hard and challenging; and

H3: English Vocabulary contributes significantly to the pace at which bilinguals and multilinguals read English.

Literature Review

            The dawn of the 21st century came along with a major revolution in information. The access to information has been easy by the many magazines and journals available on various subjects. Additionally, there is a huge volume of information on the internet are available for access by everyone (Fitzgerald, 2003). Whereas the availability and access of information is increasing, many individuals find that they have no time to read the material they are interested in, or are required to. As such, people have to choose the material that they want to read in finer details. The pace or speed of reading will enable an individual to read more material (McGroarty, 2006). Therefore, the speed of reading enables people to read more material they want. According to Pavlenko & Jarvis (2002), as the pace of reading increases, an individual also trains himself to focus on important details contained in the material. As such, the reader retains more information that he or she reads. However, various factors affect the pace of reading of an individual. Bilingualism and multilingualism are some of the major factors affecting the pace of reading (Sampson & Zhao, 2003).

Van Gelderen, Schoonen, de Glopper, Hulstijn, Snellings, & Simis (2003) and Zuengler & Miller (2006) questioned some important dichotomies that are operative in the second language acquisition (SLA). Focusing majorly on the constructs non-native versus native speaker (NNS vs. NS), learner versus user, and interlanguage versus target language, they contested the concepts of deficiency imputed to the learner versus user construct. According to Zuengler & Miller (2006), second language acquisition has generally worked with the assumption that learners are emulating the idealized abilities of native speakers that they are handicapped in their ability to communicate with the undeveloped language.

Acquiring and Using English

            De Souza (2002) prophesied that in the future English would be used majorly in multilingual contexts as a second language for communication between non-native speakers. This prophecy is debatably already a reality. Speakers of other languages in the new transnational communication context frequently use English as a contact language. English speakers, as an additional language, are greater in number than the traditionally understood native speakers who use the language as their primary or sole language of communication (Van Gelderen, Schoonen, de Glopper, Hulstijn, Snellings, & Simis, 2003). These developments have impressed upon the need to understand the nature of English, which is a variety that overshadows national dialects. The dominant varieties of English are the American or British English and the recently nativized forms like Singaporean or Indian English. English is usually spoken as lingua franca language. Lingua Franca English (LFE) is extremely important for millions of global speakers.  According to Van Gelderen, Schoonen, de Glopper, Hulstijn, Snellings, & Simis (2003), the language belongs to a virtual speech community.

The Relationship between Reading and Syntax

            Early investigations aiming at syntactic development in reading argue that unskilled readers do not deploy syntax to help in decoding written material. Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada (2001) demonstrated that there is a significant correlation between reading comprehension scores and productive syntax scores. Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada (2001) revealed that poor readers, irrespective of being bilingual or multilingual, exhibit syntactic deficiencies in the written language. However, multilingual readers have been revealed to exhibit more syntactic deficiencies than their counterpart bilingual readers (Sampson & Zhao, 2003). Researchers associating the difficulties of poor readers with the fundamental phonological processing deficits support the Processing Deficit Hypothesis (PDH) (Pavlenko & Jarvis, 2002). The hypothesis suggests that unskilled readers do not have trouble in processing or representing syntactic information. However, unskilled readers, whether bilingual or multilingual, experience deficits in retaining or processing phonological information in working memory. According to Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada (2001), multilingual English speakers exhibit more deficits that their counterparts do.

The association between syntactic knowledge and syntactic processing has also included normal population, which are categorized into poor and good readers. Van Gelderen, Schoonen, de Glopper, Hulstijn, Snellings, & Simis (2003) identified the syntactic difference between good and poor readers. In a three-experiment research, Van Gelderen, Schoonen, de Glopper, Hulstijn, Snellings, & Simis (2003) sought to investigate the association between syntactic awareness and reading ability in native speakers of Hebrew. Unlike the huge majority of previous researches, auditory stimuli were used instead of written stimuli. The outcome of the study showed that the difference between the correct identification of syntactically accurate and syntactically deviant sentences was smaller in the group of individuals with severe reading disability than in either relatively poor readers or good readers (Ahmed, Cane, & Hanzala, 2011). Good readers, as well as poor, readers performed better than the reading disabled children in the judgment of task did (Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada, 2001).

Multilingual Reader

            The present widely accepted assumption in the multilingualism field is that the ability of multilinguals is best modeled holistically as a global system with vigorously interacting subsystems (Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada, 2001). Apparently, the multilingual mind is not partitioned into impermeable compartments in which different languages are stored, psycholinguistic and neurolingustic evidence reveal that multilinguals have at their disposal an extremely dynamic system, which combines non-selective access in the area of word cognition (Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada, 2001). The area of word cognition, in combination with the faculty of control, offers a flexible and dynamic way of accessing linguistic knowledge. Researchers have sketched models of highly interlinked networks that adapt to the present wants and needs of the multilingual.

According to Pavlenko & Jarvis (2002) and Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada (2001), accessing the linguistic knowledge in a particular language can further activate the languages recognized by one. For quite some time, interference and transfer studies have focused in the influence of native language of people on lingua franca English. Various impacts of interference and transfer have been identified in various studies on foreign language production. Some of the most recent studies concentrate on the bidirectional aspect of transfer in bilinguals or multilinguals (Van Gelderen, Schoonen, de Glopper, Hulstijn, Snellings, & Simis, 2003). With the increasing interest in individuals speaking more than two languages in the past couple of years, the scope of the study on interference and transfer has expanded to accommodate the significance of being multilingual instead of bilingual.

Bilingual Readers

            For many bilingual learners, the goal of becoming good English readers can be one of their most complex and greatest educational challenges (Sampson & Zhao, 2003). Similarly, this goal might also represent a challenge for bilingual teachers who are incessantly turning to second language reading research in order to inform their practices. Nevertheless, whereas research in second language reading has significantly changed during the past years, the naked truth is that bilingual learners continue struggling with reading English (Zuengler & Miller, 2006). A biased response to this scenario, which shows the struggles of bilingual teachers and learners, might stem from researchers who suggest that there is more reading comprehension than just the appropriate use of linguistic processing of the propositional content of a text. Indeed, the opponents of common theories that try to account for the efficient comprehension suggest that the models of textual processing that majorly account for verbal processing seem to lend themselves to criticisms (Atkinson, Churchill, Nishino, & Okada, 2001). This is because reading studies over the past years have consistently illustrated that reading comprehension is rich in linguistic and non-linguistic information processing.

Methods

            The research methods are a crucial part because it highlights the information needed to assess the reliability and validity of the study. Consequently, detailing an accurate description of methods and their respective rationale is significant in affirming the validity of this report. The research methods are determined by the context of the study and the research questions. Empirical study has the major objective of explain the present state of affairs by using predetermined variables. Additionally, it is imperative to consider the view that the study depends on probability a lot. It is crucial for this study to emphasize on the findings, together with the a comparison of the available conceptual frameworks in order to provide an evaluation of English reading pace of multilingual and bilingual non-native learners.

Participants

Twenty 4th graders participated in the study. The students were enrolled in transitional multilingual and bilingual education program in a public district school in suburb of a large city in the US. The participants comprised of 10 bilinguals and 10 multilinguals English non-native speaking students. The bilinguals had Spanish, Chinese, or French background. The multilinguals had Spanish, Germany and French language backgrounds. The participants answered a simple question to determine whether they were multilingual or bilingual.

Materials

            Based on the previous studies of Canagarajah (2007), a booklet for participants to offer the data to be collected for the research was developed. The booklet was prepared in English.  This booklet comprised of a page where the participants recorded their reading time. There was also space for students to offer open-ended statements and explain their ratings. The follow up investigation was prepared to acquire demographic information and further insights into the perceived levels of task complexity according to participants.

Procedures

            The data was gathered within a week in two different sessions. The classroom teacher who collaborated facilitated the collection of data. Every session took about 40 minutes. The collection of data took place during the usual class time of students. The students were required to read the story in the booklet. Those who chose two languages were classified as bilinguals, whereas those who chose more than two languages were classified as multilinguals. The story comprised 1800 words. There were various vocabularies in the story. The collection of data involved the following steps:

  1. Giving personal introduction to the participants and briefly describing the procedures and purpose of the research;
  2. Providing an opportunity for the participants to ask questions;
  3. Distribution of the booklets; and
  4. After the administration of the booklets, all samples were collected, analyzed, counted and numbered for computational analyses.

Results

            This section presents the responses obtained from the responded who participated in the research. Additionally the data collected were analyzed and presented using tables and graphs in the order of the research questions. The interpretation of the findings drew upon the conceptual groundwork discussed in the literature review chapter.

H1: Multilingual non-natives have a faster pace of reading English than the bilingual non-natives

For many bilingual learners who participated in the study, the goal of becoming good English readers can be one of their most intricate and greatest educational challenges. Likewise, this goal might also represent a challenge for bilingual teachers who are incessantly turning to second language reading research in order to inform their practices. The table below shows the percentage of students based in the scores they obtained.

Multilinguals (10)

Bilinguals (10)

Participants

12.71msec

15.95msec

1

12.16msec

16.90msec

2

10.95msec

16.90msec

3

12.69msec

13.20msec

4

12.24msec

20.81msec

5

14.5msec

19.30msec

6

11.77msec

14.5msec

7

14.46msec

16.52msec

8

13.74msec

9.39msec

9

13.59msec

10.13msec

10

128.8msec

153.6msec

Total

12.88msec

15.36msec

Means=Total/Participants

 

From the table, it is evident that the pace of reading among bilinguals is slower than that of multilinguals. The mean of for the bilinguals is 15.36msec, whereas the mean for the multinguals is 12.88msec.

The number of bilinguals who scored SLOW outweighed the number of multilinguals who scored SLOW. The table below shows the percentage of students based in the scores they obtained.

Score No. of Bilingual Readers No. Multilingual Readers Percentage of Bilingual Readers Percentage of Multilingual Readers
SLOW 3 2 30 20
AVERAGE 5 3 50 30
FAST 2 5 20 50
TOTAL 10 10 100 100

 

About 30 percent of bilinguals had a score of slow, which according to this study was a speed of less than 2.5 words per second. 50 per cent of multilinguals are fast readers, with a speed of more than 3 words per second. Most of the Bilinguals had an average speed of reading English. On the other hand, majority of the multilinguals were fast readers.

H2: More bilinguals than multilinguals feel that reading English is hard and challenging

The participants were asked for various reasons why the feel reading English is difficult. This was achieved by asking the participants a closed ended questions with three choices. The choices were: unfamiliar vocabularies, English is second language, and English phonology is challenging. The table below shows summarizes the responses from the participants.

 

Reasons No. of Bilingual Non-natives No. of Multilingual Non-natives Percentage of bilingual non-natives Percentage of multilingual non-natives
Unfamiliar vocabulary used

4

2

40

20

English is a second language

5

5

50

50

English phonology is challenging

1

3

10

30

Total

10

10

100

100

 

From the table, it is evident that more bilinguals than the multilinguals experience many challenges when reading English, with regard to unfamiliar vocabulary. All these reasons show why bilinguals seem to read English at a very slow pace.

H3: English Vocabulary contributes significantly to the pace at which bilinguals and multilinguals read English.

From the table above, English vocabulary affects pace at which individuals read the language. However, the effect of English vocabulary on the pace of reading is more pronounced on among bilingual non-natives than on multilingual non-natives. About 40 per cent of bilinguals affirmed that English vocabulary presents an obstacle when reading. On the other hand, 20 per cent of multilinguals affirm that English vocabulary affects their speed of reading the language. The pie chart below indicates that 30 percent of the participants affirmed that English vocabulary affects their speed of reading.

 

 

Discussion and Conclusions

            The data gathered from the participants were analyzed and presented using tables and charts in order of research objectives. The interpretation of the findings deployed the conceptual groundwork discussed in the literature review section.

According to the study, the first research hypothesis is true. From the study, it is apparent that multilingual non-natives have a faster pace of reading English than the bilingual non-native. For many bilingual learners who participated in the study, the goal of becoming good English readers can be one of their most intricate and greatest educational challenges. Likewise, this goal might also represent a challenge for bilingual teachers who are incessantly turning to second language reading research in order to inform their practices. About 30 percent of bilinguals had a score of slow, which according to this study was a speed of less than 2.5 words per second. 50 per cent of multilinguals are fast readers, with a speed of more than 3 words per second. The fast reading speeding possessed by the multilingual English non-natives is because of their area of word cognition that, in combination with the faculty of control, offers a flexible and dynamic way of accessing linguistic knowledge.

The second hypothesis of the study is also true. From the findings of the study, it is evident that more bilinguals than the multilinguals experience many challenges when reading English. This might stem from researchers who suggest that there is more reading comprehension than just the appropriate use of linguistic processing of the propositional content of a text.

This study has also proved the third hypothesis, which states that English vocabulary affects the pace at which people read the language. The effect of English vocabulary on the pace of reading is more pronounced on among bilingual non-natives than on multilingual non-natives. About 40 per cent of bilinguals affirmed that English vocabulary presents an obstacle when reading. Most of the bilinguals acquire English as their second language. As such, they might be familiar with most of the vocabularies.

From these hypotheses, the study concludes that the pace of reading among the bilinguals and multilinguals differ due to English vocabulary and phonology.  It is apparent that the study fulfilled its main objective of comparing and evaluating the pace of reading English among bilingual and multilingual non-natives. more bilinguals than the multilinguals experience many challenges when reading English.

Research Limitations

            The study used a small sample of about 20 people, perhaps to avoid the complexities related with large samples. Small sample does not reflect the actual situation. In other words, the results might be very accurate. A larger sample might produce accurate results that reflect the actual scenario as it is on the ground. In this regard, it is recommended that future research should use larger sample and other methods of data collection such as interview. Multilingual non-natives have a faster pace of reading English than the bilingual non-native.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Ahmed, A., Cane, G., & Hanzala, M. (2011). Teaching english in multilingual contexts: current challenges, future directions. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Atkinson, D., Churchill, E., Nishino, T., & Okada, H. (2001). Alignment and interaction in a sociocognitive approach in second language acquisition. Modern Language Journal , 91, 169–188.

Canagarajah, S. (2007). Lingua Franca English, multilingual communities, and language acquisition. The Modern Language Journal , 91, 923–939.

de Souza, L. (2002). A case among cases, a world among worlds: The ecology of writing among the Kashinawa in Brazil. Journal of Language, Identity, and Education , 1, 261–278.

Fitzgerald, J. (2003). Multilingual reading theory. Reading Research Quarterly , 38 (1).

McGroarty, M. (2006). Lingua franca languages. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics , 22 (1), 23-39.

Pavlenko, A., & Jarvis, S. (2002). Bidirectional transfer. Applied Linguistics , 23, 190-214.

Sampson, H., & Zhao, M. (2003). Multilingual crews: Communication and the operation of ships. World Englishes , 22, 31–43.

Van Gelderen, A., Schoonen, R., de Glopper, K., Hulstijn, J., Snellings, P., & Simis, A. (2003). Roles of linguistic knowledge, metacognitive knowledge and processing speed in L3, L2 and L1 reading comprehension. International Journal of Bilingualism , 7 (1), 7-25.

Zuengler, J., & Miller, R. (2006). Cognitive and sociocultural perspectives: Two parallel SLA worlds? TESOL Quarterly , 40, 35-58.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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